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Reflections on Parish People and Historical Objects

By Jimmy Douglas

With the passing of Miss Elma Cruickshank last December, it is the end of an era for the Cruickshank family. For over 160 years they supported and attended the churches of Urquhart and latterly Lhanbryde. In 1843, at the Disruption, her great grandfather, David Cruickshank, a leading elder at Urquhart, left the Parish Church and with others formed the Free Church in Urquhart. They worshipped in the Meft barn, as David Cruickshank was the tenant of Upper Meft. As a new Parish Church had just been built, the Free Church acquired the stones from the former ruined Church in the graveyard. The new minister, Rev James Morrison, was ordained on 16th April 1844; the ordination took place in Meft barn because the new church was still not complete.

Mr Morrison was also an authority on archaeology and on one occasion advertised a lecture on ‘The Savages of Urquhart and Lhanbryde’. The Schoolroom, now St Margaret’s Hall, was packed; the meeting, chaired by David Cruickshank, really was a ‘Footprints in the Sand’, describing what had been left behind by the former Parish inhabitants: flints, scarpers, arrowheads, shells, broken pottery. The items had been found in the predominantly sandy soil areas throughout the Parish: the druid Stone Circles at Viewfield Crossroads; standing stones and marker stones at various places; the Witches’ Stone at Meft. Gold ornaments and jet beads were found at Law Hillock, some of which are now in the Elgin Museum. Ploughmen found many of these items as they walked behind a single furrow plough drawn by two horses, a lonely job out in all weathers. Sometimes as the furrow was turned over, however, they would find an item of interest, keep it and show it to the Minister when he called – like the small hammerhead found by a ploughman at Upper Meft, which can now be seen at the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh; no doubt it found its way there via Mr Morrison. Mr Morrison was Minister in Urquhart for fifty years, retiring in 1894. He died in 1899 and is buried in the northeast corner of the old part of the Churchyard.